Nixplay’s Smart Photo Frames are easy to use and you can save thousands of photos on the frame itself without shelling out for a cloud subscription. But bear in mind that screen resolution varies depending on frame size and the best resolution is now on the 2K Ultra, which is a pricey option.
Dedicated digital photo frames have come into question a little in the wake of smart displays like the Google Home Hub or Echo Show. Why buy a screen that only shows photos, when you could buy one that does that and a whole lot more?
The Nixplay Smart Photo Frame can be read as a sort of answer to that question. Sure, it doesn’t have a built-in voice assistant, and you can’t use it to adjust your smart thermostat.
But it’ll connect to the cloud to display your latest photos, it’ll make those photos look much better than a Home Hub or an Echo Show would, and it’ll do it all while remaining fundamentally easy to use.
Design and build
The Smart Photo Frame series is designed to look like as much like a photo frame, and as little like a piece of tech, as possible.
The display is surrounded by boxy bezels, angled slightly to match the style of traditional frames. The matt black model I tested looks the most tech-y of the lot, but the glossy metal option looks much closer to a standard frame. The only thing to give it away are the two small squares that make up the motion detector, used if you want to set the screen to sleep when there’s no-one in the room.
There are three or four sizes available, depending on where you are in the world, with 8in, 10.1in, 13.3in, and 15.6in displays. The 8in display is currently US-only, while UK buyers can get the 13.3 in instead. The larger sizes are only available in black.
Any size can be easily wall-mounted, or if you prefer can sit on a shelf with the power cable cleverly doubling as a flexible stand that lets you adjust the angle and orientation of the frame pretty easily.
The textured back is surprisingly attractive given that you’ll likely never see it, and also sports one of the frame’s best features: a magnetic spot for the included remote to attach to, so that you can safely tuck it out of sight without worrying you’ll forget where you’ve hidden it.
Display quality has long been my biggest issue with most digital frames, which typically include dim, low-resolution panels that never do photos justice. The Nixplay frames are bright, with good viewing angles and colour reproduction but their display resolution varies, depending on the size.
The 8in is 1280 x 800, as is the 10.1in. This is in line with Nixplay’s new 10.1in Touch frame, which we’ve also tested. Meanwhile, the 13.3in is 1920 x 1080 and the 15.6 is 1024 x 768 (XGA). These are all at least technically HD but not as sharp as the competing 10.1 inch Aura Carver (1920 x 1200).
I reviewed Nixplay’s 9.7in model, which has now been renamed the 2K Ultra and is no longer a part of Nixplay’s Smart Frames range. It boasts a 2K IPS screen that’s bright enough to withstand direct sunlight and high resolution enough that you won’t lose detail from most of your shots.
Best of all is the matt finish, combined with impressive viewing angles, which means that at a glance your shots look like prints, adding to the illusion that this is a traditional frame. That’s something that current smart displays can’t match, with most offering decent resolution but never letting you forget that you’re just looking at a photo on screen.
Bear in mind that aspect ratio varies between the frame sizes. The Ultra is a relatively boxy 4:3, while the 10.1 uses a 16:10 panel and the 13.3 and 15.6 opt for an even thinner 16:9 ratio. If most of your photos are in one size or the other then this might affect your preferences, but there are various options for how to fit images to the frame in any case.
Software is another area where Nixplay has really stepped its game up. The Smart Photo Frame balances functionality and simplicity by combining simple, pared back on-device controls with powerful browser and app options to sync and manage your photos.
Unlike older models, there’s no option to access photos from a USB stick or SD card, so it’s cloud-only. When you set up the frame you’ll be asked to pair it with a Nixplay account, which you can manage through a web browser or the accompanying Android and iOS app.
You can upload photos through either, or connect your account to Google Photos, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Dropbox, or Verizon Cloud to sync photos and use them to populate playlists which you can send to your frame.
You can save multiple playlists on the frame, and as many photos as the 8GB of storage allows (bearing in mind that a bit of that space is already lost to the frame’s operating system).
People who want more storage can subscribe to Nixplay Plus, which in the US costs $49.99 per year and in the UK, £4.99 per month/ £49.99 per year, and comes with additional benefits, such as a lifetime factory warranty on products.
If you use the Nixplay app it will also double as a remote, letting you queue up specific photos or playlists direct from your phone.
The frame itself lets you pick which photos or playlists to display, customise how images fill the screen and the transitions between them, and handle the Wi-Fi connection – and that’s about it. This smartly avoids any complex, confusing options on the frame and so makes it a great option for the technically challenged, as any friend or relative could handle the trickier bits of photo management remotely.
That side of things is mostly simple and user-friendly, beyond a confusing insistence on having both photo albums and photo playlists with little clear instruction on what the differences are (one is where you upload photos to, one is what you play them from, but it doesn’t even matter when you’re using the app rather than the browser, for… reasons?).
The Smart Photo Frame costs $129 for the 8in, $149.99/£149.99 for the 10.1in variant, £219.99 for the 13.3in, and $239.99/£219.99 for the largest 15.6in model.
If you don’t mind paying more for better picture quality, the 9.7in Ultra is $299.99/£269.99 with a metal frame.
Bear in mind that Nixplay often has deals on, so it’s worth browsing the site, especially during sales periods and before Christmas.
You can buy direct from Nixplay, where there are some discounts for buying a few at once, or you’ll find them on Amazon too.
The Smart Photo Frame is a good purchase, either for yourself or as a gift. It’s an attractive, easy to use frame, although you should bear in mind that resolution will vary depending on which size you buy – and if you want the best, it’s going to cost you.
For more digital photo frame options, have a look at our round-up of the best we’ve tested.